Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Interview With Deb Raney

Today I’m truly privileged to have as my guest one of the most prolific and accomplished writers of Christian fiction today. Deb Raney is at work on her seventeenth novel. Her books have won the RITA Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Readers' Choice Award and the Silver Angel from Excellence in Media. She and her husband, Ken Raney, have four children and enjoy small-town life in Kansas. Deb is just back from the ACFW meeting in Dallas, and I was lucky enough to catch her long enough to get this interview.

RM: Deb, in addition to all your novels, when I looked at your work on Amazon I came across a couple of books of children’s sermons. Can you tell us about those?

DR: My sister, Vicky Miller, and I were both presenting the children’s sermons in our churches about ten years ago and we decided we ought to turn the ideas we’d come up with into a book. We wrote Children’s Sermons To Go, which Abingdon Press published in 1998, then More Children’s Sermons To Go in 2001. Those two books have sold about 25,000 copies, and ten years later, we’re still getting a nice little royalty check for them. Helped us both put kids through college, and we’re happy to have shared our ideas with others who present children’s sermons. We’ve also heard from quite a few people who use our books for family devotions, or homeschool object lessons.

RM: Amazon also shows a number of books for which you’ve written endorsements. I know that lots of authors have begun to shy away from giving an endorsement for a book because once you open that door you may be letting yourself in for a flood of requests. How do you handle that situation now?

DR: I really enjoy reading books for endorsement, but I’m a slow reader and frankly, don’t love every manuscript I read. I’ve made a policy that I will only read books that are contracted and have been through the editing process. I only endorse books I’ve read cover to cover and truly enjoyed. Recently, I’ve had to say “no” to several novels I would have liked to read, but with the recent ACFW conference and now a deadline looming, I need to clear off my desk. But as long as publishers use endorsements, I think I’ll probably always be glad to offer mine for those books that are a cut above. I know, as a reader, I appreciate other author’s recommendations when I’m choosing my next novel to enjoy.

RM: I know that you have a couple of books coming out soon. Would you tell us about them?

DR: I have five releases in the next eight months! Believe me, that doesn’t happen very often for this slow writer! But here’s the rundown: A Vow to Cherish is releasing in mass-market size in October; the brand-new sequel, Within This Circle, comes out later that month, both from Steeple Hill Books. I have a novella, Finally Home, in the Missouri Memories anthology from Barbour Books, out in December. That’s one I agreed to do six years ago at the very first ACFW conference. I thought the project was dead, but about a year ago, I got a call saying it was a “go,” so here we are! In March, my second Clayburn Novel, Leaving November, will show up in bookstores. (I’m working on the third Clayburn book now, titled Yesterday’s Embers.) Then in May, Over the Waters will re-release in mass-market size from Steeple Hill with a brand new epilogue (including a much-requested kiss!)

RM: You’ve written for several different publishers. Do you ever consciously change your writing style to fit a particular house, or do you just write what’s on your heart and see where it goes?

DR: I write pretty much the same type of book for each publisher I’ve worked with. My stories for Barbour have always been novellas, and my Steeple Hill books might have a touch more romance to them than my novels for Howard, WaterBrook or Bethany House, but for the most part, what I write could be termed “Women’s Fiction,” and for each publisher, what I’m writing are simply the stories of my heart.

RM: You’ve told me that your husband is going to be speaking at a writing conference this fall on the subject of being married to an author. What do he and your kids think about your being such a celebrity?

DR: Shhh! Don’t tell them. They think I’m just an ordinary wife and mom. Seriously, my husband could not be more supportive. Ken is a celebrity in his own right—an award-winning artist, and illustrator/author of two children’s picture books (one with my publisher, Simon & Schuster). He understands the writing life and is my favorite brainstormer/de-stresser/champion and friend.

Our four kids totally took my published status for granted when they were younger. In our small town, I was far more famous as Mom of the quarterback or Mom of the lead in the musical. But I’ll never forget our eldest daughter calling me from college out-of-state where she was studying elementary ed. She’d returned some books to the library and one of my novels was on a stack someone else had just returned. Tobi was surprised to see my book and commented to the librarian that the author was her mom. The librarian went nuts and treated Tobi like a celebrity. When she got home, she called me with awe in her voice: “Mom! You’re kinda famous!” Now she is a young married woman, mother of my darling grandson (and one on the way!) and we write a column together for Crosswalk.com, Marriage Perspectives. You can see our latest piece here.

RM: Every time I turned around at the ACFW meeting, there you were—and you were always smiling. What lasting impressions did you take away from the meeting this year?

DR: It was a great conference and the few sessions I was able to attend were fabulous—especially the early bird presented by Allen Arnold and his crew from Thomas Nelson. But I think the impression that stuck with me the most was how many friends were there that I barely got to say “hello” to! It’s wonderful that the conference has grown so, but the downside is that there aren’t enough hours in the conference to touch base with everyone I would have liked to! You, for instance! We greeted each other briefly after one of the meals, but I would have loved to sit and visit for a while! Maybe next year in Minneapolis…

RM: And finally, what thoughts would you like to share with my readers?

DR: For your readers who were at the ACFW conference, let me just say that I am seeing a commitment to excellence among new writers that impresses my socks off! And makes me realize I’d better pay attention to my own craft, or some of these up-and-coming whippersnappers are going to put me out of a job! Back to work now!

Thanks, Deb, for dropping by. I know that my readers will be watching for all those releases. It makes me tired to just read about them. Sort of makes me glad I’m not on deadline. (Well, I sort of am, but that’s another story).


Christina Berry said...

I love Deb's take on, well, pretty much everything. Thanks for the interview, Richard.

Ane Mulligan said...

Good interview, Richard! Deb is the first teacher I ever had at a conference about 4 years ago. I've read every one of her books and think she's amazing. She's my paradigm of excellence.

BJ said...

Great interview, Richard, with one of *the* nicest people in our industry!


Deborah Raney said...

Aw, you guys are so sweet! Thank you so much for your comments. And thanks, Richard, for doing the interview. I enjoyed "visiting" with you and always enjoy your blog posts.

Rachelle G. said...

Fantastic interview. Thanks Deb & Richard!

Angela Breidenbach said...

I really enjoyed this interview. Such a unique twist for Deb's husband to be giving a speech as a spouse. I love that:-)
Thank you,

Christina Berry said...

I love Deb's take on, well, pretty much everything. Thanks for the interview, Richard.